MELBOURNE -- No. 1 Serena Williams defeated No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the 2015 Australian Open final on Saturday, winning her 19th major title. With the win, Serena captured her sixth Australian Open title and put herself just three major titles behind Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22. She now sits in second place in Open Era titles, having tied Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 titles last fall at the U.S. Open.
"I was walking down the hall yesterday and I was thinking, Wow, I'm still in the tournament," Serena said. "It's been a long time since I've been to the final here or the semifinal. It's been a long time coming. I was just really, really elated to have an opportunity to walk out on the final match."
The match was an intense, high-quality affair, with the two combining for 59 winners to just 40 unforced errors. At one point during a rain delay during the first set, Serena, still feeling the effects of a cough that has plagued her all week, left the court and vomited. She came back on court and fired an ace. Once again, it was the difference in serve quality that decided the match. Serena fired 18 aces to Sharapova's five, and after courageously saving two match points late in the second set, Sharapova struggled to find a first serve in the tiebreaker. Serena clinched her 16th consecutive win over Sharapova -- a streak that has lasted over a decade -- with, what else, an ace.
"She started being a little more aggressive [in the second set]," Serena said. "I think I got a little more passive. Was just trying to get the ball back in play. But I also started serving better in the second set because I knew if I wasn't having my groundstrokes where I wanted them to be, I knew I could serve it out.
Sharapova fell to 2-17 against Williams and hasn't tallied a win since 2004. It was also her first loss of the season. "Look, I actually believe that we attract what we're ready for," Sharapova said. "Yes, I haven't won against her many times, but if I'm getting to the stage of competing against someone like Serena, I'm doing something well. I'm setting up a chance to try to beat her and it hasn't happened. I'm not just going to go home without giving it another chance. That's just not who I am and not who I was raised to be. I'm a competitor. If I'm getting to the finals of Grand Slams and setting myself up to play a match against Serena I'm happy to be in that position. I love the competition. I love playing against the best, and at the moment she is."
Now begins the chase the chase to catch Graf's record. Serena says her eyes are already trained towards the French Open and Wimbledon. But starting the year with a Slam in hand already takes the pressure off her season. "I would love to get to 22," she said. "Nineteen was very difficult to get to. Took me 33 years to get here. I would love to get there. But I have to get to 20 first, and then I have to get to 21. There's so many wonderful young players coming up, so it will be a very big task. My next goal was just to get to 19. That was my goal. So I didn't think it would happen this fast, to be honest, but it feels really good."